Many activists are saying that after the working class liberation, black liberation, women liberation and gay liberation this is the animals’ time. Discrimination on the basis of species is the last form of discrimination to be fought against.
Thinking that this is animals’ time since other forms of discrimination were already successfully addressed is false from at least three different aspects. The first is a factual one – all of the so called revolutions are still far from occurring. The second is conceptual – the belief that eventually the truth has got to win, requires falsely observing history as a purposeful force moving in a linear way from bad to good, from chaotic to ordered, from irrational to rational. And the third one is analogical – even if human social struggles were successful, we can’t infer from them about nonhumans’ struggle, because they are fundamentally different.
In the following post we’ll address the second aspect.
The belief that “this is animals’ time”, probably unconsciously, relies on an inherently religious telos, whose secular form is manifested in the enlightenment narrative and the notion of progress, in which ‘the good’ or ‘the truth’ inevitably triumphs in the end, and rationality will inevitably triumph over irrationality if given enough time. All along history activists believed that if they would persist they would win in the end, the truth would inevitability be realized and therefore embraced by everyone.
The problem with this telos is that it is theoretically unprovable and practically entirely baseless. There is no guaranty that “the good” will overcome. There is nothing to support this notion other than the desperate need to believe in it.
There is no reason to believe the “good” will win. It makes much more sense that what has happened so far will keep happening in the future, and that is that the interests of the powerful of each era win. The truth about what goes on inside factory farms was revealed long ago, and yet…
Arguing that progress has occurred throughout history (despite our severe factual disagreement), is theoretically a valid argument, as opposed to arguing that history has a quality of being principally progressive and linear. But even if we agreed that factually, progress has occurred throughout history, it would be contingent, not imperative. There is no reason to believe history is progressive by definition, no reason to assume that it is the natural and necessary order of things in the world.
This approach is dangerous since it tricks many activists to believe that the world got better, keeps getting better, and will get even better, while the exact opposite is true.
Even regarding humans only, the historical progress narrative is misleadingly simplistic.
Oppression systems aren’t dissolved, they shape-shift and fit themselves to the current economic and social climate, and not uncommonly turn for the worse. Brief examples are the backlash of the 70’s and 80’s new-conservatism, neoliberalism, the rise of mass consumerism, the green revolution (in agriculture), porn culture, the continuing gaps between “races” and classes, followed by inventive new forms of oppression such as mass incarceration, the war on drugs, privatization, and the surveillance state. Many of these trends are interlinked with technological advances, widening and deepening existing oppressions.
And an historical example is the Neolithic revolution which allegedly benefited humans, but actually only benefited humanity as a species. As for humans as individuals it made things worse. The Neolithic revolution was on the face of it a very reasonable step. Humans thought that if they work harder they will ensure that they will never starve and that eventually they will have more free time. But the exact opposite thing happened. They have become bounded and depended on the system they have created which made them work harder, be less satisfied, with less free time and worse health.
The human population was able to grow and the species was able to spread and conquer the whole planet, so the human species got even stronger as result of the Neolithic revolution, but individual humans got weaker. The Neolithic revolution enabled the human species to maintain more individuals who lived in much worse conditions, and of course, it played one of the most critical factors in turning trillions of nonhumans to the poorest sentient beings ever in history.
Observing history yet thinking in terms of progress is severely ignorant or extremely speciesist, since for the animals, things have only gotten worse. The lives of some humans in some places in the world were improved, are improving and will probably keep improving in the future, but that is while the lives of billions of sentient beings got worse, is getting worse, and would most probably get even worse. There is more suffering today than ever before in history, so if anything, the world is in a linear decline.
It is very hard to imagine animal liberation in a world still deeply militaristic, racist, mysogenic and full of human exploitation. It is even hard to imagine a war free, non-racist, non-male chauvinist and slavery free world. Factually our world is not only none of the above, but extremely far from it.
It is extremely unlikely as long as humans’ lives are so disposable in so many parts of the world, that nonhumans’ lives would be considered so nondisposable, that no human would ever exploit nonhuman.
Most humans haven’t even made much more socially acceptable ethical decisions than going vegan. It is impossible to educate most humans not to use one another, not to objectify each other, not to turn to violence in conflicts and crisis so easily, not to discriminate each other on the basis of race, gender, ethnical orientation, class, weight, height, looks and etc.
The homo consumericus knowingly and systematically oppresses members of its own species for the most trivial material goods. The dynamic of psychologically repressing and soothing any uncomfortable thoughts about the numerous faceless human victims half way around the world that pay a huge price so that consumers wouldn’t have to make the slightest compromise on their lifestyle is very much characteristic of the human race. The ease in which humans make horrendous acts towards one another is proven again and again by both social-science (particularly psychology studies) and world affairs, current and historical ones.
But since the most horrific turn for the worst, both in terms of the extent of the exploitation and the depth of the invasion into the bodies and minds of the victims, was done to nonhumans – asking the victims to “hold on”, assuming the goodness is bound to overcome, is not only absolutely ungrounded and unguaranteed, it is also speciesist and immoral.
Even if ‘the good’ or ‘the truth’ indeed would inevitably triumph in the end if given enough time, at what cost would it be? How many more nonhumans would have to suffer from their birth to their murder before all humans would accept ‘the truth’? Why should they? And how is forcing more than a trillion victims per year to wait until about 7.5 billion humans are convinced, a triumph of “good” or “truth”?
Our horrible world is everything but a just one. And even if it was, it wouldn’t be just to wait until every human would realize that it is wrong to hurt others. We must act now so no human could ever hurt other animals.